Aulus was of the opinion that the Romans should rule by military might. If they fed the poor of Rome (never mind offering housing and education!), then eventually the poor in the rest of Italia, and the provinces beyond, would come to expect the same treatment. And that could not be sustainable by any means! He was not utterly against the proposal, despite his natural inclinations, however.
"Most excellent Augustus, and my fellow Senators," he began, when it was his turn to speak. "This seems to be an admirable proposal, although I have two reservations: Where are the funds to come from - if the rest of the Empire is to pay for this and receive nothing themselves, that will foster unrest, especially in provinces such as Judea and Britannia. Secondly, are these benefits to be given out to our poorest citizens with no regard for a return? I would propose some method to ensure that those who could afford to pay even something would be expected to do so."
He sat down again so that the discussion could be taken up by the next Senator.
"The main thing is, if anyone tries to stop you carrying out an order, you're obeying me, and I'm one of the senior officers here," Aulus told him. "I won't give you orders that will conflict with the military side of things or that will be impossible for you to carry out because of that - or I will do my best not to. If for some reason you can't fulfil an order, I will want to know the reason - some excuse won't cut it."
That went for the soldiers under his command, too, of course.
He reached for the straps of his breastplate. Armour was familiar to him, and comforting, especially after weeks as a fugitive, but it would be nice just to relax in his tunic.
"No, that's fine," Aulus said, stripping off his neckcloth and dipping his hands in the basin to splash water over his face before reaching for a towel and dropping to sit on the edge of his camp cot.
"I don't suppose anyone's explained anything about how it'll work for you in a military camp," he said, noticing the plate of food set nearby and reaching for some bread himself. He stretched his legs out in front of him. It was good to finally sit down and relax into a routine he was familiar with. The tension and possibility of being caught and killed had receded further and further into the background as their distance from Rome had increased, although being with Quintus now, and Aulus' position with the Legions, had by no means diminished his need to make decisions. But in this camp, with Quintus in command, even that had disappeared for a short while, leaving Aulus with a bone-deep tiredness and a nagging ache that stemmed from the sort of need he would ordinarily turn to his wife for.
"You can sleep inside; it's not always going to be this warm and dry," Aulus said, ducking into the tent and pulling his cloak off, flinging it aside. Naturally, he had left Rome without anything other than the clothes on his back, the knowledge in his head and the slave at his side. Somehow, Quintus' second in command had found him a uniform that fit, though he'd still have to see the cobbler about getting some decent footwear made - and for Felix, too.
"Is there any warm water to be had?" he enquired, though he'd spotted the food laid out, which made him ask, "And have you eaten?"
They had spent several weeks on the road and at sea in one another's company, and where Aulus ordinarily wouldn't trouble himself about his slaves, he'd dragged Felix all this way into a world that was totally foreign to him. Ensuring his slave had food to eat and somewhere to sleep was little enough.
Aulus had spent hours closeted with his former commander, discussing the situation he'd left in Rome and what Quintus' next move should be. He returned to the tent he'd been assigned and nearly fell over the slave sleeping across the entrance.
"What in Hades.... Felix?"
Who else would it be, of course? And where else would he sleep; he'd come here as Aulus' sole attendant and therefore it was Aulus' responsibility to make sure he had somewhere to sleep. Naturally, unless ordered otherwise, he would position himself across the entrance of Aulus' tent, to be near his master and stop any unwanted intruders from getting to him.
The young philosopher was either self-deprecating, or lacked in confidence, and the latter would not help him. But he was young and this was a large city - he might have only recently arrived here and therefore could still be finding his feet.
Aulus hoped, for his sake, that he would find them quickly.
"We have recently returned home from Raetia," he said, taking his own goblet and sitting back in his seat. "While it is very different from Greece, it may give you some connection with Titus."
The slave vanished to find the ordered food and drink. "As I say, your student will be my son, Titus. He is thirteen, somewhat serious for his age. He is therefore of an age to learn rhetoric and the art of oratory - I do not know how much experience you have of the latter? I subscribe to the philosophical teachings of Stoicism more than any other school of thought, although I should like Titus to develop somewhat of an understanding of other philosophies." He would rather Titus did not end up subscribing to any of those other philosophies, but an understanding of them could only stand him in good stead in the future.
"Also some history and mathematics - although I do not suppose that you can teach everything to the same high standard as your particular speciality, of course," he said, as the slave returned with refreshments, silently setting two goblets, a jug of wine and a plate of bread, with a small bowl of olive-oil to dip it into, and another plate with a bunch of grapes. He poured wine into each goblet and stepped back, head down and Aulus dismissed him with a brief flick of his fingers.
"Do help yourself, please," Aulus said. He did not think that the other looked as though he could have had breakfast that morning.
No mention of a husband and her father ill - was there, perhaps, a brother or other male relative to stand in his place as her guardian tonight? He supposed there was the vague possibility that she was here on her own, but she had not responded to his mild flirtations in kind, and he could not suppose that a woman so careful of her reputation that she did not flirt back would be so careless as to go out without a male relative to call upon if necessary.
But stranger things had happened, of course.
"I am sorry to hear that," he said instead, and glanced around the room. "If you have spoken to all the people present, I daresay you could tell me who I should avoid for fear of being bored half to death?" he added, lightly.
"I daresay Felix has a much better story to tell than I do," Aulus said. His slave would probably be able to share it better with Titus than he could, too; there was a bond between slave and young free children that there could not be between the free children and their own parents.
"How long to find a friend like Felix?" he said, repeating the question to give himself time to think. "Felix is verna; Grandtata owns his parents and he was born in the household. I chose to take him when I had to leave because I thought people would recognise the body-slave I had at the time - people don't really look at slaves, but if you are counting on that, it will be the one time that someone recognises the slave and then the master. I didn't really know him before that, apart from knowing that he was a good worker, and conscientious."
It might be time to think about finding a body-slave for his son, though he wasn't sure he wanted to trawl the markets for one such. Perhaps one of his friends had a suitable slave they would be willing to sell - better still, perhaps his father had a suitable slave in the villa at Baiae?
"You've moved around a lot, and that doesn't make it easy to make friends," Aulus said, acknowledging the fact, and hoping that renewing his own connections would also broaden his son's social life. It was important for him to make friends, of course - suitable friends, though Titus displayed a wisdom beyond his years when it came to his social circle.
"Perhaps I should find you a body-slave of your own," he said, giving voice to his thought of a moment before.
"That's odd, I thought you owed me a couple," Aulus said with a grin, though he wasn't going to make his friend pay for the drink they were going to consume, not today.
"So what have you been doing with yourself since we last met? I have been governing a whole lot of mountains and trying to prevent German incursions across the Danubius."
He steered his friend out of the Basilica and round the corner to a half-decent caupona.
"What'll you have, then?"